Posted in ebook reader, Kindle Fire, writing

World building on a small scale



I’m always impressed by authors who can create entire worlds out of their imaginations and bring them to vivid life. As a reader, I believe in the the worlds created by Tolkien, Burroughs, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling and so many others. In more recent years, I’ve grown intimately acquainted with the future imagined by Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, and in the psychic-populated planets envisioned by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle. I love escaping into those fantastical worlds for hours of pleasure and adventure.

My own books have been more grounded in the present and in recognizable settings, usually in the South, where I’ve grown up and feel so comfortable, and often in my home state of Arkansas. As much as I love reading about those other worlds, my interest lies more in characters. I wouldn’t enjoy reading those otherworldly books if the authors weren’t equally as skilled at creating believable, fascinating characters for me to bond with and cheer for. My own writing focus tends to skew toward large, intricately interconnected families. Perhaps because I come from big families with complicated connections, myself. My parents were married fifty-four years before my mom’s passing five years ago, I had three younger brothers, my grandfather lived with us for a while before his death — which meant 7 people in a three bedroom, 1 bathroom house. I have too many cousins on both sides to count, some of them “double first cousins,” and my always-growing extended family includes stepchildren, adopted children, children-of-the-heart — in other words, the typical Southern American background with many, many real life stories to tell. I don’t base my characters on real life people or situations, though I’m sure I’ve been influenced by things I’ve seen, heard and read, but I’ve come to know most of my characters almost as well as people in my real life. I enjoy writing connected books including previous heroes and heroines because I like exploring what might have happened to them after the earlier books ended. For my Walker/D’Alessandro families (introduced in the Family Found series I started in the early ’90s and whom I will revisit in 2013), I have notebooks of family trees, character descriptions, progressive ages in each book, offspring names (yes, I’m now matching off the second generation, some of whom have started the 3rd generation). I’ve engaged cheerfully in SORA (soap opera rapid aging), but I’ve tried very hard to stay consistent with making everyone age at the same rate, which can be a challenge at times!

Still, on occasion I have created settings for my books — small towns, usually, which are always fun. The occasional private island (RAFE’S ISLAND and THE BORROWED RING come instantly to mind). For my next three Harlequin Special Edition books to be published next year (the first two featuring heroes from the Family Found series), I’ve created a resort set on Lake Livingston in Texas. The lake is real — the resort created wholly in my mind.

The scribbled sketch here is my conceptual map (obviously not to scale!) of the Bell Resort and Marina owned by the Bell family who will play such a big part of the next three books. As you can see, I’m not much of an artist — nor a cartographer. It’s not a real place and I’ve never stayed in such a resort — and yet, if you were to drop me at the gate of Bell Resort brought to reality, I could find my way around every inch. I picture it in my head as clearly as if I could step out my back door into the campgrounds. Once I’d crudely sketched it out, I’ve rarely had to refer to my map, because I know the place so well, just as I know the family who owns it. I’m sure those other authors are as intimately acquainted with their worlds, and that they enjoy spending time there as much as I’ve loved the hours I’ve spent at Bell Resort — without ever leaving the recliner where I do most of my writing.

I hope you’ll visit the Bell Resort and Marina with me next year and that you’ll enjoy meeting the family who lives there and falls in love there — with a few adventures along the way. THE RIGHT TWIN will be available in March, followed by THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY in May (the third book not yet titled or scheduled as I’m just starting to write it).

In the meantime, click the Books tab above for links to my titles available now for Kindle, Nook and other ereaders. And if you haven’t yet read WAKE ME, my paranormal suspense book available for Kindle and the free Kindle reader app, now’s a great time to get it for only $3.99! With fall rapidly approaching, this is a story guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween.


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Posted in writing

All the little birds on Jaybird Street

I enjoy following several sports on TV, so I’ve seen quite a bit of football during the past couple of months. I’ve watched college bowl games and professional play-offs, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming Super Bowl (and, by the way, I totally called the teams who would be in it).  I also follow NASCAR racing (though not as faithfully as I once did), enjoy the “other” football, as it’s called here in the South — soccer, and am glued to the television every two years for whichever season’s Olympic games are being aired.

“Competitive reality TV,” as it’s dubbed on the website Television Without Pity, sort of continues the sports theme. I’ve never seen “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race,” but I do enjoy “Project Runway,” “Face Off” and some of the talent competitions – “So You Think You Can Dance,” “The Voice,” “American Idol” (which I haven’t watched much for the last couple of seasons). And though my husband teases me mercilessly for it, I absolutely love competitive cooking shows. “Top Chef,” “Chopped,” “Iron Chef,” various food network challenges — something about those flying knives and leaping flames and frantic shouts of “behind you, behind you!” just get my blood pumping. They’re fun, and I enjoy rooting for my favorite contestants to win.

Which made me think — how boring would a competitive writing show be? Let’s face it — while we all hope our product is interesting and exciting, writing itself is not a compelling spectator activity. We sit in a chair, stare transfixed at a glowing screen, pound on keyboards — hitting the backspace and delete keys repeatedly — occasionally argue with the voices in our heads. While some writers perhaps look beautiful and camera-ready as they work, I’m not convinced those exceptions are among my closest group of writer friends. Many of us confess to working in comfy, grubby clothes (p.j.s being the uniform of choice admitted in whispers), with hair tumbled every which way, no make-up and plenty of coffee, soft drinks and chocolate near at hand. Even when those sports or competitive reality programs I enjoy are blaring from the television, my computer is usually in my lap and I’m writing or editing or researching or making notes (while also keeping up with my Facebook friends). Despite that less-than-glamorous description of my career, hunky Mike Rowe is unlikely to visit me for his “Dirty Jobs” show (darn it) — because, handsome as he is, watching him sitting in a chair and typing for an hour would hardly be riveting TV.

Writers on television are often shown attending glittering parties, chasing criminals, meeting with long lines of adoring fans — but that’s not showing them at work. In fact, I often wonder when do those fictional authors actually write? Few of us can make a living scribbling a page or two a week — or even a day, for that matter. All kinds of adventures are taking place in our imaginations, but to share them with our readers, we have to separate ourselves from others and take on the solitary task of putting words to paper — or screen, to be more contemporary. Definitely not a spectator career.

Like all modern writers, I’ve been encouraged to have more of an on-line “presence.” This blog, the flashy website I’m going to have someday (really), a Facebook page and Amazon author page (both now in place – check them out!), and — gulp — Twitter. So, I started a Twitter account, wilkinsgina (the reverse already being taken). Other people seem to tweet often, finding interesting things to say and report. I stare at that blank screen that faces me so routinely, and try to think of something fascinating to send out into twitterspace. I’m enchanted by my artistic husband and our three brilliant offspring, of course, but I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm for my family. I don’t care to discuss politics or religion, because those are private for me, and I’m not exactly a scholar of either, anyway. Some people seem to tweet their every move during the day, but that hardly seems appropriate for me:

“Sitting in my chair under an afghan, drinking tea and trying to convince my current hero to stop being a stubborn jerk.” Is that too many letters? Not exactly fascinating, anyway.

“Just wrote a complete paragraph and it’s a keeper!” Well, no. Only another writer would see that as a noteworthy accomplishment.

“Actually met my word-count goal today so I’m rewarding myself with a bag of M & Ms and the newest J.D. Robb thriller!” Big deal, I hear you all say with a groan.

So. I have a Twitter account. And a blog. And a Facebook page I also struggle to make interesting. Someday I’ll have a real website. Maybe. I hope you’ll all visit me in those places – I promise to do my best to find something worthwhile to say, at least occasionally.

But mostly, I hope you’ll enjoy the books I produce during my noncompetitive, undramatic work routine. My latest Harlequin Special Edition, DOCTORS IN THE WEDDING, is still available in stores, and the next, HUSBAND FOR A WEEKEND, will be released in April (click the Books Available Now! tab for details). Soon I’ll be able to announce the release of a Kindle-exclusive paranormal suspense novel entitled WAKE ME — I’ll tweet that release date as soon as it’s confirmed. Can’t wait to share details with you of that somewhat different story I so enjoyed writing as a challenge to myself.

Do you tweet? What do you like to read from the tweeters you follow? Feel free to contact me at any of the mentioned sources or leave a comment here. I love hearing from readers!

Posted in Uncategorized

Library in my pocket

Copyright © by Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

I have to admit to being technologically challenged. This simple blog requires all of my computer skills (hence, the spaces between the lines of the copyright message above – can’t figure out how to remove them). Web pages confuse me. Facebook befuddles me every time the setup changes (which seems to be often). Twitter? Haven’t even tried. I still carry a “dumb phone” — it makes and takes calls and texts quite well, but does not access the internet.

To paraphrase Leonard “Bones” McCoy — “I’m a storyteller, not a computer whiz!”

So, it should come as no surprise that I was a bit slow coming around to ebooks. Clinging to my treasured library of hardcovers and paperbacks, I couldn’t imagine reading on a screen, when I spend so many hours a day staring at a computer screen for writing. Every so often, when my shelves overflow, I gather bags of books to donate to the local shelters or other deserving organizations, but I still have a lot of books stashed in closets and cases. When I travel, I always try to find extra space for books – which has become increasingly difficult as airlines limit more and more the amount we can carry on or even check. I have sat many times in waiting rooms, wishing I’d remembered to bring along a book, having read every year-old magazine within my reach.

And then last year my son gave me an iPod Touch for Mother’s Day. I’d used the iPod Nano before, but this was the first time I’d had the capability of downloading a book to carry with me using iBooks or Kindle format. Just as an experiment, I bought a couple of books from iTunes, downloaded the Kindle app and bought a couple of books there. And even though the screen is very small, requiring a lot of page-turn swipes – I love it. A book is always at hand, and I have pulled that little reader out more times than I can count already. I’m even catching up on some old classics I enjoyed years ago (many of them free downloads). Now I’m looking at Kindles and Nooks and other readers, thinking maybe I’m ready for a somewhat larger screen.

After her stroke, my older daughter found herself spending more time commuting to work by bus, so she decided to invest in an e-reader. After trying out several formats in the local stores, she chose a Kindle because it was lightweight and easiest for her to operate with the use of only one hand. She uses it everyday to pass the time during her forty-minute-each-way bus ride. I’ve noticed more and more people reading on various types of devices in waiting rooms, on planes and buses and in coffee shops. With pocket and purse sized readers and instant downloads, books have become more portable and available than ever. What a joy for us avid readers!

Quite a few of my older books that were formerly out of print have been re-released under the Harlequin Treasury imprint. They are available for Kindle and Nook and through I love knowing that some of my favorite older stories (such as A VALENTINE WISH, my first “ghost story” romance) are now available to readers again. More titles should become available in coming months.

I will always enjoy curling up in a chair with a new hardcover or paperback and a cup of my favorite tea, but it’s lovely to know that I can have a selection of books always at hand wherever I go now. Bring on that waiting room!

Posted in Uncategorized

Recharging the batteries

My last day in St. Louis -- still smiling, but looking worse for wear!
My last day in St. Louis -- still smiling, but looking worse for wear!

I’ve spoken before about how important I think it is to have support groups in our lives. We are drawn to people with common interests, and find inspiration and encouragement in our interactions with them. My husband belongs to two woodworking clubs, one for general woodworking and another specifically for wood turners; they understand his obsession with sharp tools and chunks of wood. My son seeks out other video game enthusiasts, an acquaintance is active in a knitting club. There are gardening clubs and book clubs and photography clubs and hiking clubs, clubs that meet every month, others that “meet” on-line. I’ve actually made a few friends through on-line interest groups that have been an important part of my life for several years, though we’ve never met IRL (in real life).

I’ve just returned from St. Louis, Missouri, where I participated in one of the best writers’ conferences I’ve ever attended (and there have been many). Novelists, Inc. is an organization for multi-published authors of popular fiction. We all share the joy of having seen our books in print, and the fears of the changing publishing landscape. We swapped stories about computer-related aches and pains, aging parents, writing with small children in the home, working with agents and editors, surviving creative dry spells, trying to find affordable health insurance, even exchanged a few recipes. Writing is a lonely and solitary job at times, and it’s nice to get together with friends I’ve made during the past twenty years and get to see so rarely.

Our workshops started at 8:45 each morning and concluded with informal “night owl” sessions from 8 until 10 each night. The “forensics day” workshops were fascinating, with presentations from police, FBI, coroner and trauma nurses. Other guests in the hotel were a bit curious about the “crime scene” set up in one of our rooms — a mannequin with a gun in hand and a knife in the chest lay among scattered furniture while bullet holes and bloody hand-prints were taped to surrounding walls. A detective walked us through that scene, showing us exactly what he would see as he studied it for the first time. Fascinating!

Industry professionals — agents, editors, publicists and publishers — presented workshops on the changing face of the business and tips on how to survive in this new electronic world. We also had several paranormal workshops from St. Louis’ Paranormal Task Force and noted “wizard” Dr. Michael Henry (if you’re ever in the St. Louis/St. Charles area, I highly recommend Dr. Henry’s ghost tour. We had a great time). I really enjoyed the paranormal activities, since I’ve been playing with some story ideas that include what I call “woo-woo elements.” The midnight to almost 3 a.m. ghost tour down Main Street in historic St. Charles, Missouri was one of the highlights of my week. What fun!

Now, I’m back at work, finishing the third book in my Doctors in Training series for Silhouette Special Edition. Interestingly enough, one of the themes for this series is the importance of support groups. Five medical students form a study group in book one and grow closer as they navigate the four years of medical school, finding romance along the way, of course. Each book covers one year of medical school, and it’s not a spoiler to reveal that book four will end with a big celebration! Book one, DIAGNOSIS: DADDY was published in August (and is still available by order from Book two, PRIVATE PARTNERS, will be on the shelves in February, 2010.

Enter to Win! Though it’s early in the month, I can tell you that at this point if you enter my give-away contest for the two connected NASCAR romances, HEARTS UNDER CAUTION and ALMOST FAMOUS, you have a very good chance of winning! Click the Enter to Win! tab above for details.

Apparently, ghosts have been seen on the top balcony of this historic St. Charles building. Perhaps they were just being shy the night I was looking for them.
Apparently, ghosts have been seen on the top balcony of this historic St. Charles building. Perhaps they were just being shy the night I was looking for them. But is that an "orb" in the tree?